Thousands of children waiting for homes in Northern Ireland

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By Kelly McAllister, reporting for VIEWdigital

Thousands of children in Northern Ireland are waiting for a home to call their own, housing campaigners have found.

The children and their families have worked with Homes Now and Equality Can’t Wait campaigners on a new documentary ‘Waiting for a Childhood’.

A Freedom of Information request to the Housing Executive has revealed that a total of 36,198 households across the north of Ireland are on the social housing waiting list. This includes 20,950 children who are without a home.

Around 13,000 of these young people are in emergency housing as they wait for a place to call home. Others are sofa surfing or sharing with relatives in cramped accommodation.

These young people have been identified by the Housing Executive as children in ‘housing stress’ meaning that they are effectively homeless and therefore a re-homing priority.

Homes Now campaigner, Páidraig Ó Meiscill said: “The aim of the film is to expose those who are doing nothing in the face of a humanitarian crisis and that is what it is at this stage.

“There are nearly 14,000 kids across the North who are homeless and there are people whose job it is to solve that crisis and who are point blank refusing to do it.”

He added: “These people aren’t just helpless victims in this scenario, they have been campaigning and lobbying relevant politicians and a lot of the agencies for a number of years now and from that point of view it has been like talking to a brick wall.”

The Homes Now campaigners have been protesting from last September for the decision made by Belfast City Council’s planning committee to re-zone land in the Gasworks for commercial development – which had previously been zoned for social housing – to be reversed.

“They need to stop making decisions like that and address what is already a humanitarian crisis. What they need to do is build houses, I don’t think it can get simpler than that,” said Pádraig.

• The launch of Waiting on a Childhood is on Thursday, August 2 at 7pm in Conway Mill, Falls Road, Belfast.

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